As the Blues plot a course to Istanbul in May, fan reporter Theo Milki reminisces about a journey to the Mestalla to see his team – and take in the sights
Thomas Tuchel’s Blues are flying at the moment, another impressive performance against Atletico Madrid helping us secure qualification for the quarter-finals. But as I leapt off the sofa to celebrate with my family, thoughts turned to Spanish opposition by another name, and the cherished memories of a European away trip.
Back in 2019 I travelled to Valencia to watch Chelsea’s group stage fixture against los Murciélagos. My mother and I arrived a few days before the game as the city has a lot more to offer beyond football; we enjoyed trips to the science museum, aquarium and zoo, among other things. It was the last week of November but the Valencian “winter” allowed us to walk along the old river paths (now turned into parks) in T-shirts, enjoying the sunshine.
Seeing as we were in Valencia, I also had to try the renowned orange juice at the Mercado Central; it certainly didn’t disappoint. Shortly after, juice was supplanted by beer as we joined some Chelsea fans in the central square, soaking up the atmosphere and discussing our thoughts ahead of the nearing game.
Come matchday, our strategically booked hotel was a stone’s throw from the ground so we made the swift walk to the Mestalla, a cathedral of football. I was the subject of a few stares and jeers as I walked through a sea of white shirts in my Fàbregas kit but at no point did the atmosphere feel hostile. In fact, a few rival fans asked for photos.
Entering the stadium early, I admired the blood orange sunset that matched the colour of the empty seats (though the eerie sky seemed to suggest that higher forces were favouring the home side that night). The game proved to be a classic Champions League encounter: goals, squandered chances, a rare Mateo Kovačić goal, a penalty save and a lengthy VAR check, which delayed the celebrations for us travelling fans.
Despite the points being shared that evening, la Ciudad de las Artes y la Ciencias certainly won me over during my stay. I’m looking forward to many more European away trips, soon.